The Witcher:
Meet Geralt

 By Shamus Jul 28, 2008 133 comments

The Witcher is a role-playing game, as opposed to an RPG. While theoretically the same thing, the acronym “RPG” has mutated to encompass games in which you control a soulless empty shell of an avatar with no personality or history who levels up as the story goes on around him. So I’m calling The Witcher a role-playing game instead of using the slippery acronym to highlight the fact that you play a role here. Ergo, you pretend to be someone else. The problem is that this persona is set in stone before you even install the game. At the onset you are handed an immutable character, created by the designers, who then give you almost no freedom to deviate from their vision.

Hello ladies.  Meet Geralt, the famous Witcher and even more famous <em>sex machine</em>. You <em>know</em> you want him. Kiss his leathery pockmarked face and run your fingers through his mop of stringy grey hair. He's just like Brad Pitt, except without the good looks, wealth, talent, or personal hygiene.
Hello ladies. Meet Geralt, the famous Witcher and even more famous sex machine. You know you want him. Kiss his leathery pockmarked face and run your fingers through his mop of stringy grey hair. He's just like Brad Pitt, except without the good looks, wealth, talent, or personal hygiene.
In the Witcher you play as Geralt, a monster hunter in a brand-new yet tiresomely familiar swords & magic style medieval fantasy world. Geralt looks like a played out and washed-up rocker leftover from the 70′s – an over-the-hill manslut with delusions of coolness and relevancy. Someone akin to Mick Jagger, only less successful and even more creepy, who trades on his long-faded fame in an effort to bed girls half his age and delay the realization that his glory days ended about two decades ago. I picture him getting up each morning and looking at his pasty withered mug in the mirror while thinking, “Yeah baby, I still got it“.

As the game progresses, Geralt will meet many buxom young ladies in distress who will offer themselves to him if he helps them out of their (sometimes trivial) predicament. Taking them up on the offer results in a PG-13 sex scene, followed by Geralt being awarded a rated R playing card with a picture of his latest conquest. The goal here seems to be to collect them all, which (according to the wiki) is a list of twenty women. The choice is always binary: Sex or no sex. You can’t opt for money or information instead. You certainly can’t form a relationship, much less marriage, with any of these ladies. In fact, if you talk to them later they have nothing to say about your one-time tryst. Even if you decline the frequent and inexplicable offers for sex, the people you meet often refer to your past exploits, so you can’t really change that aspect of Geralt. If you don’t like it, the best you can do is choose not to behave that way during the game. From a roleplaying perspective, the whole “collectable sex card” business makes it feel less like playing a lecherous old man and more like just being one.

Does Geralt sound like someone you want to play? A lot of your enjoyment of the game hinges on your answer to this question. Some might like it, in a “playing-the-flawed-good-guy” sort of way. Heroes with faults are usually more interesting than their more idealized counterparts. Maybe his ugliness or awfulness will give the game a certain novelty for you. There are lots of tabletop gamers who play the horribly scarred, brooding, but inexplicably promiscuous adventurer who collects sexual conquests the way other players collect notoriety or magic items. He’s certainly a break from the square jaw goody-goody medieval superman knockoffs that have been foisted on us over the years. I would give the game full points for allowing you to inhabit this archetype, if not for the fact that this is the only character you can play.

For me, inhabiting the role of Geralt was about as much fun as shuffling around the house in Hugh Heffner’s nasty old bathrobe, which forever stinks of booze, smoke, Ben Gay, and Old Spice. As Geralt I was more interested in finding someplace to take a bath and get a haircut than I was at bedding all the dirty peasant women I met.

On top of the personality railroading you undergo as Geralt, the character is suffering from an unsurprising and completely needless case of amnesia. The amnesiac videogame hero was played out back when we were still running 2D sprites through mazes, but at least in those titles of yesteryear it served as an underlying explanation as to why the main character was such a blank slate. But here the main character isn’t a blank slate. He’s actually a very clearly defined character and the whole amnesia business just adds a bunch of unwelcome clutter and friction to the dialog as Geralt stops and explains his condition to everyone that he meets. The amnesia business could be removed entirely with a little re-writing of the dialog, or by simply having Geralt explore someplace he’s never visited before. The amnesia doesn’t add a sense of mystery or tension. I never once worried that anyone was trying to take advantage of my condition. (Which would have been unfair anyway, since the game never gives the player the option to try and hide Geralt’s condition. He blabs it to everyone he meets, which rubs me the wrong way for an adventurer making his way in a hostile and uncertain world.) From a storytelling perspective, I don’t see any reason for the memory loss outside of the fact that all the other games do it.

For me, a roleplaying game with a fixed character is like a version of Gran Turismo with the Nissan Skyline as the only car you can drive, or a version of Madden that only lets you play as the Cowboys. That’s fine if that’s the choice you were going to make anyway, but it puts the game in a straightjacket for everyone else.

Disclaimer 1:

My objection to the behavior of the main character is purely from a “fun” standpoint, not a moral one. I’m not saying we should only play upstanding, moral, monogamous, honorable family men. I’m not suggesting that games are for kids and that they shouldn’t deal with this sort of subject matter. In fact, I fully endorse and strongly encourage the evolution of games to aim themselves at the grown-up world. I’m just saying that in this particular case the main character is dreary and alienating, and the whole sex-card business is hopelessly juvenile within the context of this otherwise gritty world.

Disclaimer 2:

Lots of new readers lately, so I think I should re-explain how I do these reviews. Most people are used to the traditional “game review”: a general overview of a game, followed by a numeric score.

Before you go running off to spew invective at me in the comments and tell me how great this game is let me explain that I am not “reviewing” the game in a thumbs up / down sort of way. This post is one of (probably) many that will talk about various aspects of the game, what worked, what didn’t, and will (inevitably) have a little armchair game design of how I would have done things if anyone had been foolish enough to put me in charge.


A Hundred!2013There are 133 comments here. I really hope you like reading.


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  1. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Yep, definetly spicier, Shamus.

    But I like it, generally. I recently watched Yathzee’s (?) review of the same game, and I think you two think alike about it. You certainly hit the nail about role playing game.

    On the other hand, think of it like a Play. You have a set character, with a set personnality. Sure, you have to give a little pazziaz of your own, but his personnality is plot-relev…

    Wait. Is his “conquests” plot relevant?

  2. Hal says:

    I’m curious about Geralt’s T&A CCG. Do those cards give you any sort of in-game bonus, or is it just for you to pull up and ogle whenever you’re feeling like pixelated tatas?

  3. July says:

    I don’t think fixed characters are necessarily a bad thing, if it allows for a more involved and interesting story. (Xenosaga, anyone?)

  4. Matt K says:

    Personally I applaud them for at least trying something different than the countless empty shell games (also the game is based on a polish book).

    I think this kind of game would have gone over better if there was any sort of market for non-Japaneses role playing games. Off the top of my head I can only think of two (Mass Effect and NWN 2) that are on the market right now.

    That said, I couldn’t get past the intro in the demo (yes they actually had a demo) because I couldn’t figure out the fighting system. However I do at least give the developers massive props for what they are doing even if the end product wasn’t my cup of tea.

  5. qrter says:

    The cards give no bonus at all. The cards are the “prize”, if you will.. it’s all a bit silly.

    But I loved the game. For me it has a very distinct European taste to it, which is grittier and darker in tone.

  6. Count_Zero says:

    IIRC, the character of The Witcher came out of a series of Eastern European (I want to say they’re Russian, but I could be wrong so I’m going to weasel out of it by being vague) fantasy novels (the first book is available stateside – I don’t know about any of the others.

  7. Allan says:

    About the sex cards, almost all the “sexual conquests” are totally irrelevant to the rest of the game, so complaining that you either do them or don’t is like complaining that your free soup isn’t to your taste, if you don’t like it, no loss, it’s free afterall. You could of course argue that if they’re so irrelevant they needn’t be there at all and I’d agree in that aspect.

    And I didn’t really mind being stuck with Geralt, the way Mass Effect went with commander Shepard is like a watered down version of how the Witcher deals with Geralt. By giving you an established character, although you don’t get as much choice as you might with an open character, the choices you do make can be much more meaningful and have far greater impact, this gets very apparant as you go along and get further into the story where you past choices start coming back to haunt you.

  8. Gildan Bladeborn says:

    I realize you are exaggerating about the whole “amnesia” schtick, but I feel obligated to point out he only mentions that to people who call out his name and expect him to remember them or something. If a particular character doesn’t intimate that they knew you before, amnesia never comes up. I knew the whole “amnesia, oh noes!” thing is the oldest cliche in the book, but CD Projekt at least had a reason for using it: It let them use the various characters from the universe of The Witcher without requiring you to actually recognize them. By putting Geralt in the dark they sidestepped the possible scenario where he knows whats going on but you the player is left scratching your head. (Odds are good most people outside of Poland had never heard of the novels the game was based on.)

    Also, my eyes!! That screenshot is terrible, do you have the texture settings on low? You aren’t kidding when you say your PC is underpowered apparently.

  9. Shamus says:

    Gildan: I don’t think turning up the graphics would help Geralt’s looks. This is a guy who benefits from looking as pixelated as possible.

  10. Ok, random query. Is there anything out there in the KOTOR/KOTOR2 ilk right now? Even from the last few years – I don’t care if it is a bit older, I don’t care about latest and greatest graphics.

    I think I’ll watch these reviews with some interest – I’ve been on the fence about Witcher and whether or not I should bother with it.

  11. Dys says:

    The role is fixed, the character stats are decidedly not. You mentioned that this is different from the current rpg format, but I’d like to propose that it’s just the void character from another angle. As far as your input into the game world is concerned, the character is irrelevant here. Immutable and therefore not part of your individual experience. The personal touch comes, like with a nothing character, in how you place skill points and how you play the game outside of dialogue.

    Incidentally you do / can form a lasting relationship with at least one of the women in question, though what happens after that I don’t know, since I chickened and carried on with the whole manslut aesthetic.

  12. Tom says:

    I think the point of employing the amnesia cliche was to satisfy another genre convention: starting a character from “level one” and getting more power/skills as you progress. I guess the other way to do that with such an established (from the books) character would have been to do a “prequel” sort of thing.

    Incidentally, Age of Conan is doing something vaguely similar with its single-player quests. As you complete those missions, your reward is to remember what a bad-ass you USED to be, earning you a bump in a stat of your choice.

  13. Johan says:

    “So I’m calling The Witcher a role-playing game instead of using the slippery acronym to highlight the fact that you play a role here”
    In my opinion those are Role Watching Games (RWGs) rather than Role Playing Games. To me it’s the difference between watching a movie and playing a game, they’re both great, but still distinct.

  14. Snook says:

    “Also, my eyes!! That screenshot is terrible, do you have the texture settings on low? You aren’t kidding when you say your PC is underpowered apparently.”

    Yeesh, personally I’d say they’re damned good graphics. My card is even more underpowered (GeForce 5200 wut wut) so anything that looks that good amazes me. Much like Shamus I don’t care for the push for more pixels. Just let me run the damn game, I don’t care if I’m playing with legos. Actually, by now I’m so used to running games at 12-15 fps that anything more is impressive…

  15. Z!re says:

    I remember trying Witcher, I think I played it for about two hours total before I gave up and uninstalled it.

    It’s horrible and all you do is click your way from one battle to the next.

    Calling this an RPG is blasphemy!

  16. Zukhramm says:

    I think, there’s nothing wrong with giving you no option but a pre-created character with personality and back story, as long as that is the starting point and you can move away from it thoughout the game.

  17. Shadani says:

    Seems like a waste to play the Witcher now, as the ‘Enhanced Edition’ will be released soon (and it’ll be a free download for those who already have the original. So yeah).

    But as others have already mentioned, the amnesia factor, while not a perfect solution to the dillema the devs were faced with, is pretty justified in this instance. After all; you don’t want to learn Polish and read half a dozen books before you can appreciate what’s going on, right?

    The pinup cards were unncessary, I agree. Letting Geralt sleep around a bit if you so desire is all fine and well, but I couldn’t help but feel the cards were an insult to the player (Congragulations! You completed a subquest! Here’s some nekkid piks!).

    As for Geralt’s appearance, I really don’t see the problem. But then, my aesthetical tastes are pretty broad.

    RandomGamer: Well, there’s Mask of the Betrayer (the first NWN2 expansion), which is, IMO, completely and utterly awesome. An immense improvement over the original game’s good-but-flawed campaign. There’s also the Storm of Zehir expansion and Mysteries of Westgate adventure pack on the horizon. Also see Mass Effect if you don’t mind some shooter with your RPG.

  18. Shamus – the game was based on a very famous Polish fantasy book series. The Witcher stories were incredibly successful in Poland and are a staple of Polish fantasy genre. I haven’t played the game so I can’t say anything about the plot, but having read few of the books I can say they had some substance to them. I remember that nothing in them was black and white – everything had this duality to it.

    For example the Witcher profession itself. Witchers were feared and hated by most people – considered to be abominations of nature. But they were considered the lesser evil if a monster was threatening your village.

    The world itself had some interesting twists on the old theme too. For example, instead of Humans, Elves and Dwarfs living in harmony like in most Fantasy settings the Witcher world was torn by racial tensions. There was was a lot of prejudice, and inter-racial fighting.

    I’m not sure if this made it into the game but a running theme in the early books was the guerrilla movement of non-human freedom fighters. Young and ambitious Elves and Dwarfs were forming small riding parties fighting for better treatment, equality, reclamation of their lands and etc.. Most of the time they were outnumbered and simply slaughtered by local human defense forces.

    The twist was that Elves were only fertile up to a certain age. So all the young elven idealists and patriots were running off to get themselves killed in hopeless guerrilla warfare while the whole race was heading towards extinction.

    The books were decent. There was also a movie and a TV show based on them which were hated by just about everyone. It sounds like the game is yet another failed adaptation. :(

    Also, if anyone is interested in the novels, at least one of them is available in English from Amazon. This is the first book which is actually compilation of short stories featuring Geralt. It is outside the main story arc covered by the later novels which have much thicker, and complex plot and structure.

    Still, it is probably worth checking out even if you didn’t like the game that much.

  19. eloj says:

    Geralt isn’t _so_ different from The Nameless One. TNO was also a “set character”. He had a definite past, and a definite future. You got to play around a bit in the middle.

    I really like The Witcher, and will restart it with the Enhanced Edition. The story and role-playing elements, like the relationsships with Triss and Shani, the morals of helping the Order against The Squirrels or vice versa, really doesn’t get going until Ch2/3 and the first bit really is mostly a tutorial with much running around killing things.

    Is it a PST or BG2? No, but in these times it’s the best we’ve had in a loooong time.

  20. r4byde says:

    “I picture him getting up each morning and looking at his pasty withered mug in the mirror while thinking, “Yeah baby, I still got it“.”

    The image that paragraph drew in my mind was absolutely nasty. Mik Jaeger in a bath robe. *shviers* I think I’ll sleep with the light on tonight.

    Regarding Witcher, I’m just so damn tired of the Bondesian (Bondish, Bondlike, Bondo?) style hero who sleeps with anyone and everyone, especially when game developers assume that that’s the kind of character I want to play. Why can’t we have more games like Arcanum, that let you play any type of character you please?

    Fireball throwing gnome bandit? Check.
    Mad orcish librarian grenadier? Check.
    Amazingly strong battle-axe wielding halfling? Check. Weak-assed, rock tossing troll who is also a genius? Check. Incredibly ugly, stupid uncharismatic, pretty boy elf who ran away to join the circus? Check.

    The above are all characters I’ve played in Arcanum and I’m still playing after all these years! Damn it! Why couldn’t Trokia play-test their games better?

    EDIT:Bah! formatting!
    EDIT Again: A twenty!

  21. Danath says:

    Wow, this rant was terrible, his amnesia and the like actually make sense if youve read the books, as this is a continuation of them. Not to mention while you are given the character and his background, you are for the most part allowed to do nearly anything you want when it comes to story line decisions.

    In fact, sleeping with everyone has NEGATIVE consequences later in the game, and the reason everyone will sleep with you is that by being a Witcher, Geralt is IMPOTENT, meaning there is no risk involved for the women. The fact your amnesiac also has almost no bearing on the actual story, other than to allow the player some leeway in not knowing every character you meet (which you know almost every single one of in the books, including the king).

    I dont see your automatic hatred of having a character with a past… as opposed to having a character with NO past suddenly saving the world? Not to mention his past doesnt dictate ANYTHING you do, your free to act in any way you wish, and as far as tutorials go, the amnesiac story fits (again if youve read the books).

    Actually if you play the game on hard, combat becomes very difficult and interesting for those commenters who call it a click fest… this is not diablo, spam clicking will kill you even on easy. The game is ALL about how you build your character and what decisions you make, I fail to see how thats not a role PLAYING game, you are playing a role, and yes he has a past, that doesnt change anything, and sleeping around with lots of women HARMS the games only relationship you can really have (again, related to the books).

    I feel like im ranting now by how im repeating myself, this was just a terrible read from “At the onset you are handed an immutable character, created by the designers, who then give you almost no freedom to deviate from their vision.” As the whole game is designed for you to do as you see fit, even snub characters you supposidly “know”, kill or help as you see fit, theres nothing telling you what you SHOULD do at ALL in the game, thus theres no “vision” that doesnt allow you to “deviate”.

    I will admit its funny that you say he acronym “RPG” has mutated to encompass games in which you control a soulless empty shell of an avatar with no personality or history who levels up as the story goes on around him. Then immediatly proceed to bash this game, which does NOT do that, you dont even give it brownie points for making the attempt, bit hard to please there?

    Your free to not like the game, but almost every point you bring up either contradicts yourself, or simply doesnt make any sense.

  22. The Lone Duck says:

    Yeah, the whole “Sex! We’re EDGY!!” schtick that Witcher had kinda turned me off. And the fact that sexual encounters have no effect on your interactions seems to cheapen the idea. (Not that they’d be meaningful relationships, but still…) Edit: So he’s impotent. If I walked around a bar, letting women know I was impotent, I don’t think that’d improve my chances, even if I brought back 10 boar tusks. If you really wanted to make the sexual conquest part of the game, perhaps a more sensible reward would be to make the “encounter” repeatable after the initial wooing. I am interested in what the game mechanics were like. And gritty atmospheres are great. But if you have to read the books to enjoy the game, then they should either pack the books in the box, or rewrite the game so you can enjoy it on its own.
    Just an idea, but suppose you had a game like Oblivion. Aside from picking all the other starting attributes, you could pick your “personality” a trait that would determine whether you’re a stoic boyscout, sketchy lecher, gibbering idiot, or naive goofball, etc. And that choice would effect the dialogue options you had in the legitmate game, and perhaps even events and quests. It would be a step closer to actual role-playing. That’s just my thought. It would certainly require more writing.

  23. Nick C says:

    This is my first post ever. I absolutely love this game, and just bought “The Last Wish” book on Saturday and love that too.

    For me, the character Geralt didn’t really come across as a manslut. I certainly slept with every woman possible in the game because i’m a “completionist” in a sense. But the way it is handled, and with Geralt’s personality, I end up taking pity on the character. He’s not quite a man-whore in a traditional sense. He’s sterile and immune to disease. And since he’s alienated and despised by nearly everyone, getting his rocks off now and then is likely one of the very few pleasures his profession can enjoy. It’s played around with a bit in the story, but he really can’t have a functional tradition romance. The cards thing was kind of weird though. I didn’t dislike it or like it, but I didn’t look at them a 2nd time once I had gotten them.

    Roleplaying wise, the game reminds me a lot of a cross between Mass Effect and Planescape: Torment. Overall I loved this game. I’m holding out playing it again until the enhanced version comes out.

  24. the reason everyone will sleep with you is that by being a Witcher, Geralt is IMPOTENT, meaning there is no risk involved for the women.

    Um… Wouldn’t being impotent actually prevent him from having sex with all these women?

    I think you meant to say he is sterile/infertile instead. ;)

  25. Dev Null says:

    The fact your amnesiac also has almost no bearing on the actual story

    I believe you will find that was exactly Shamus’ point.

  26. I won’t repeat everything Danath just said, he summed it up pretty damn well. I will however add to it the following couple of points:

    I remember the last “immutable” hero I played who was completely without customisation. His name was Gordon Freeman. Last I checked, that story was kinda popular.

    While you cannot change the looks of Geralt or his backstory, you have quite a robust skill tree that suits multiple playstyles. I have played the game twice now; once focusing entirely on Signs (the games form of magic) and once focusing entirely on Swordplay. Both were viable choices.

    Geralt has a surprising number of choices when it comes to his influence with NPC’s and the world at large. If you are not careful with your choices, in fact, you can completely change the course of the game in one of three ways. I’m not going to say more here as they are pretty big spoilers.

    Having read the books, the Amnesia story actually fits perfectly. In the last tale of the series, Geralt finds himself overwhelmed by foes and the reader does not know what becomes of him. The book actually implies he “disappears” and it is up to the reader to decide just what that means.

    The first book by Andrzej Sapkowski has been translated to English already, titled “The Last Wish”. In fact, the opening cinematic is a FLAWLESS recreation of one of the scenes in The Last Wish, and I cannot stress just how perfectly they captured it. The second book is soon to be released in English (I last heard November).

    In closing: Shamus, please attempt to play the game a little more before you review it next time. Or you can call it a “First Impressions” post or something equally discerning. One last thing, if you are going to quote Mr Croshaw, please reference him.

  27. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Gildan Bladeborn:

    “I realize you are exaggerating about the whole “amnesia” schtick, but I feel obligated to point out he only mentions that to people who call out his name and expect him to remember them or something. If a particular character doesn’t intimate that they knew you before, amnesia never comes up. I knew the whole “amnesia, oh noes!” thing is the oldest cliche in the book, but CD Projekt at least had a reason for using it: It let them use the various characters from the universe of The Witcher without requiring you to actually recognize them. By putting Geralt in the dark they sidestepped the possible scenario where he knows whats going on but you the player is left scratching your head. (Odds are good most people outside of Poland had never heard of the novels the game was based on.)”

    Knights of the old republic 2 had you recognize characters,yet it didnt ruin the imersion.The key parts got explained through dialog.

    Deus ex has you knowing many characters,yet you can still role play it.And it gives you a fixed role at the begining too.

    Also,summoner and both KotOR games have you start as a defined character,although KotOR one has the blank mind twist,so you are loose there.

    I wouldnt call nameless one a fixed character though.Sure he has loads of past,but considering his condition,he went all over the spectrum,being all types of individuals.

    @RandomGamer

    None of the new RPGs appeal to me,but classics like BG 1 and 2,planescape torment,NWN 1(dont bother with the original though,go straight towards the expansions),fallout 1 and 2 are all story driven role playing fames not unlike KotOR.Any of those you missed,you definitelly play.

  28. Vadimirin says:

    The fact that he’s amnesiac is merely a minor ploy to give the player an option of learning more about the backstory of the character. The Witcher is based on a series of books written somewhere in the former soviet block, I forget where exactly, and probably about 80% of the NPCs you run into are from said books. It may even be that the Amnesia was at the end of one of the books.

    But I admit, they could have done away with it in the US by changing some of the dialogue. But for the readers of the original Witcher books probably appreciated it more than those of us who just play the game. This is the problem with converting strait from book to video game without any movies in between, especially with books that were originally in a different language.

    EDIT: It seems both the above commenters knew more about it than I did, but my point bears repeating.

  29. Sharpie says:

    Pretty sure you are confusing “role playing” with “playing a role”. In all “blank slate” games, you play your character the way you want, lovely, but it effects jack in-game (other then the obligatory “help the farmer” or “murder the farmer” duality of good-evil games). There is no personality there, no voice (figuratively).

    At least with a pre-defined personality, it makes an impression in the world, and in a more realistic manner. It you can play that role, then it makes it more satisfying (to me). The immersion is much greater.

    I enjoyed the game for the most part, but got bored half-way through. And the sexy stuff was more comic then exciting.

  30. Cuthalion says:

    Well, I don’t know whether or not the game’s fun, but I won’t be buying it. The whole sex cards/scenes are a deal-breaker for me. Yes, I know that part’s optional, but I really don’t want to support it with my money. I do wish developers wouldn’t put that stuff in games. (I’m not saying it should be illegal, just that they shouldn’t do it.)

    The whole “adult” label used to defend these things is an insult to those of us who actually grew up. Being an adult means more than just being allowed to watch other (sometimes fake) people have sex.

    EDIT:
    I wonder if this is just the latest fad. “Hey, look, Mass Effect had sex and made money! Innovation!”

  31. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @Cuthalion

    Its actually an implementation thing.Well implemented sex scene can actually improve the experience,while badly implemented one will ruin it.The best example for this is fahrenheit(indigo prophecy),since it has both.The scene with your (not really)ex girlfriend is an excelent finishing touch of a sequence of events that led to you making up with her.It makes you feel the charactes are real,even though the scene if taken just by itself is a ridiculous minigame.The second scene near the end of the game is simply…well,ridiculous,since it is a stand alone thing not connected with the rest of the game,so you feel something is missing,thus it breaks the game(which,unfortunatelly got broken long before that).

    The developers need to learn how to implement these scenes as they are a dangerous tool and need a lot of thought about them.

  32. Robyrt says:

    Thanks Shamus – I also have difficulty enjoying games where I’m role playing someone I would hate in real life. (I gave up on Grand Theft Auto about the time people start praising you as a cold-blooded killer, even though you take the “save the farmer” over “kill the farmer” option every time.)

  33. The whole sex cards/scenes are a deal-breaker for me. Yes, I know that part’s optional, but I really don’t want to support it with my money. I do wish developers wouldn’t put that stuff in games. (I’m not saying it should be illegal, just that they shouldn’t do it.)

    Why shouldn’t they do it? I mean it is your prerogative not to buy the game, but why condemn it? Someone else may enjoy this aspect of the game.

    I respect the fact that you don’t like the gratuitous sex, and to tell you the truth it doesn’t do anything for me either. But I’m not going to tell anyone they should not include certain plot elements or themes in video games just because I personally don’t like them.

    Also, I don’t think Witcher is jumping on the bandwagon of Mass Effect. I believe it was released before Mass Effect – or at least before the sex thing hit the news.

  34. modus0 says:

    @ Danath and the others who say “if you read the books.”

    Considering that apparently only one book has been translated into English, it’s unlikely that Shamus (or the majority of the American players of the game) would have had the chance, let alone desire to do so. So claiming that “it all makes sense because of the books” is pointless when one can’t read the books.

    It’s like expecting someone to have read every Star Wars book ever written before playing a Star Wars game. One *shouldn’t* have to do anything other than play the game to understand what goes on in the game.

  35. Sharpie says:

    @Cuthalion: Witcher was actually released before Mass Effect.

    @modus0: You don’t have to read the books to understand whats happening, as it is all revealed in game. The game actually talks about stuff that happened in the books. Actually, the amnesia thing is a result of an event in the books, and it works quite well, for a cliche.

  36. Cuthalion says:

    Witcher was actually released before Mass Effect.

    Well, there goes that idea then. :P

    Why shouldn’t they do it? I mean it is your prerogative not to buy the game, but why condemn it? Someone else may enjoy this aspect of the game. … I’m not going to tell anyone they should not include certain plot elements or themes in video games just because I personally don’t like them.

    (emphases mine)

    Because life is more than personal preferences, as is right and wrong. But to explain why I say what I do and think this way, I’d have to go into a whole worldview thing that could devolve into an argument, and I’m sure Shamus would not appreciate that, seeing as he avoids such subject matter in his posts for that reason. Though it wouldn’t be terribly off-topic.

  37. Jeff says:

    It amuses me when someone defends a game with “If you read the books…” as it pretty much implies the game itself can’t stand up on it’s own.

    That said, I just wanted to comment the A Bard’s Tale titular character amused me very much.

    Also, yes, “RPG” has been diluted, as the original “RPG” is of course from table-top, and you can indeed be whoever you want to be. All other claims to the label are inferior.

    But I’m not going to tell anyone they should not include certain plot elements or themes in video games just because I personally don’t like them.
    I think that at least Shamus has every right to do this here, seeing as how this is his blog, not a professional article. He’s free to try and shape the world to his whim, and he answers to no sponsors or boss (other than his wife).

  38. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Cuthalion:

    “Because life is more than personal preferences, as is right and wrong.”

    No,its not.You have nothing against violence in games,yet you have against sex just because thats your own personal preference,not because violence is right and sex is wrong(which always strikes me as the dumbest view cenzorship forces on people.If I didnt know better,Id think that people procreate by stabbing each other)

  39. R4byde says:

    Just an idea, but suppose you had a game like Oblivion. Aside from picking all the other starting attributes, you could pick your “personality” a trait that would determine whether you’re a stoic boyscout, sketchy lecher, gibbering idiot, or naive goofball, etc. And that choice would effect the dialogue options you had in the legitmate game, and perhaps even events and quests. It would be a step closer to actual role-playing. That’s just my thought. It would certainly require more writing.

    Not to be a broken record but: Arcanum! It has character histories you can choose when you start the game that change your stats, starting equipment and reputation. Not to mention that intelligence and charisma actually affect dialog in a VERY meaningful way.

    Is it just me, or did all three of the greatest western rpgs -Dare I say ever?- come from the minds of those guys that left Interplay to start Troika? What the heck happened to Cain anyway?

  40. Steven B. says:

    I’ll just echo some of the other people, and talk about the book. There’s only one out in English, called “The Last Wish”, and it’s much much better than the game. I don’t know how much of a reader you are, but I really enjoyed it, and it made me appreciate the game more, as horribly flawed as it is.

    I got about 1/2 way through the game and stopped playing, and now with the enhanced edition so close I’ll just wait and start it from the beginning with that.

    Anyway, check the book out if you like.

  41. Fosse says:

    I’m looking forward to the Witcher articles. I don’t mind a break from WoW (which I have never played), and this might be the first time I’ve read your analysis for a game I’ve already finished and have my own opinions on.

    I like the subtle distinction between “RPG” and “role-playing game” for the use in these pages.

    I don’t mind that we play a pre-defined character for this game, since CD Projeckt never claimed we’d be doing anything else. It wasn’t sold to us as a game where we get to make Geralt whomever we wish him to be, but instead it was ballyhooed as a game in which we would have to make choices for Geralt that have a real impact on the events in the game.

    Assuming a good RPG system, having some games give us a canned personality in an interesting story is preferable to having ALL games give us blank slates in an unresponsive setting, wherein we can only pretend the PC has a personality.

    I’d have preferred that Geralt’s amnesia had simply been: “I don’t know where I’ve been since the books ended with my disappearance five years ago, that’s some kind of mystery. On the other hand, I certainly remember my old friends and I will now shoehorn their name and a brief synopsis of our relationship into the conversation the first time I meet them.”
    It wouldn’t have even bothered me that I started in that context as a “Level 1″ witcher. I’ll accept that as a gameplay convention and move on.

    On the whole, I loved this game. I can’t wait to replay it with the Enhanced Edition. And I look forward to your thoughts, Shamus.

  42. because violence is right and sex is wrong(which always strikes me as the dumbest view cenzorship forces on people.If I didnt know better,Id think that people procreate by stabbing each other)

    Actually it is about what is easy or least healthy for a child to replicate.

    or somesuch

  43. Andre says:

    Interesting review. I’ve heard lots of good (but not great) things about The Witcher, but never anything specific. Honestly, although the main character’s personality seems extremely cliche, I’m intrigued. I may check this game out to see just how stale the character gets.

  44. I’m surprised (or maybe not) that no one has mentioned how incredibly SEXIST The Witcher is!

    Ugh. Yet another game with an unsympathetic male protagonist who is surrounded by a bunch of helpless women. Just what the world needs.

    Not.

  45. Danath says:

    I didnt read the books till after I played a bit of the witcher actually, it took me about 5 minutes to check it out.

    You are right, I meant STERILE, not impotent, my mistake there, but it doesnt change the core of what I said. YOU get to decide how the story goes through your actions, the amnesiac beginning allows you to NOT have to play to whatever his character may have been before this game started, which allows you freedom in your decisions. Many characters who KNOW who you are are dissapointed you dont know them, also Geralt himself is quite famous… many characters have heard of his NAME, but do not know much about him (such as the bard in the very first town).

    In fact, thanks to the amnesiac subplot, it means you do not need to know all the literature for the characters, and it helps explain it to you as you go. If you did not like the games story (which ill admit, is a bit cliche), or the characters, that is fine, everyone has their own opinion, but I disagree with Shamus’s wholehearted condemnation of the character because he chose to play a manslut through chapter one, treating the game like a collectable game… ala pokemon.

    The main draw in the game is how your decisions have an effect on the world… and unlike games like KoTR, there is VERY rarely a good/evil decision at all in the game, it all depends on your moral compass, and even being good all the time wont be the right thing to do. I wont include spoilers, but there was alot of things you could harp about on this game ill admit, I enjoyed it, it fit my play style well, but harping on the main character in such a rant, I might as well go and watch Fox News for unbiased reporting, its about the same level as quality.

    TLDR version: I dont care if you didnt like the game, or even didnt like the main character, but your comments on WHY you didnt like him, without any acknowledgement other than the fact hes “not handsome, not wealthy, and is a manslut”, with many sentences and paragraphs interspersed saying those 3 things.

    OH yes one more thing.. you can opt for money or information instead, the sex is usually an extra option, that funny enough rewards you in a small way… and ultimately DOES have an effect on the games finale. Series of posts or not, your review should encompass more than ACT ONE.

    Also, the very first female character is funnily enough not helpless, go figure. But yes, the game is sexist, so is the time period its placed in, which sort of justifies it for those of you who thought womens had equal rights back in medieval time period stories, maybe you read too many dragonlance novels.

  46. I knew that The Witcher was based on some Polish books before I started playing it. The amnesia thing was a convient story telling tool; Geralt knew about as much about his back story as I did at the beginning. And I accept that he’s a predefined person. I mean, if I play a LotR game, I would expect Aragorn to be predefined too. While it doesn’t start until Act III, there is a sub theme of self rediscovery in The Witcher. You start to define THIS Geralt, as opposed to the old Geralt.

    I accepted Geralt as he is. Even how he is towards women. As I recall, one of the guys in the prolog even mentions how women are Geralt’s weakness.

    Overall, I enjoyed The Witcher. The game (and Geralt) is much deeper than it first seems.

  47. GM West says:

    I was laughing hard at your thoughts on this game, Shamus. Never played it (and I doubt I will) but I feel like I lived a little part of it through your eyes.

    Amazing to me that people still refuse to acknowledge that you yourself have said that this is not a ‘review’ of the game. That word certainly keeps cropping in some of the comments.

    Anyway, nice work. As usual.

  48. Juha says:

    Pff, passing this game because it has a few sex scenes is pretty stupid, since it comes pretty damn close to games like Fallout, Planescape: Torment or Arcanum in how good it is. Doh, It’s almost better than PST.

    I don’t even think there is an occasion where you HAVE to sleep with someone, and most of the time you have to go looking for girls to get laid with.

    The amnesia you can mostly just ignore, since after chapter one it rarely even gets mentioned.

    The Witcher is pretty much the best RPG in like 8 years. It’s not about fight or sex even if it has both of them, it’s about difficult moral questions. The story is just great and there’s no real good or evil in it, only shades of gray.

    All your points are a bit silly, and it looks like you haven’t even played past chapter one.

  49. The Lone Duck says:

    To people new here, this is not Shamus’ review! He’ll probably have at least two or more articles about this game. See the archives for similar articles on games.
    Anyway, as a man, sexism in general does not stand out to me. I would hope there are at least some positive female characters. I avoided the game because of the nudity/cursing/etc. I’m not throwing my values on other people, I just don’t like playing games like that in a place where other people may be offended (family, friends, etc.). I have only seen one game handle sex in a grown up way. That was Xenogears for the Playstation 1. There was a romantic scene between the two main characters, fade out, then it showed the guy getting out of bed. No one needed to show naughty bits, or have humorous lines. That’s well and good if that’s what you want a la Fable. But if you want me to treat sex in games like a serious subject, do it tastefully.

  50. Ryan Speck says:

    You can’t blame a game that’s based on a series of books for sticking you with the character those books are based on.

    It’s kind of like you’re complaining that the James Bond RPG is forcing you to play this womanizing asshole who drinks a lot and (depending on the era) spouts off inane one-liners while using ludicrous gadgets to fight or save women named after parts of their own anatomy.

  51. Shamus says:

    The corsair: Do not ever, ever, have the nerve to tell me how to review games. I will call a game crap from the opening credits. I might reserve judgment until eight weeks after I beat it.

    Geralt is a nasty and alienating manwhore, and I hate him. Full stop. Playing for twelve more peasant-screwing hours isn’t going to make me like the filthy geezer.

    I didn’t “quote” Croshaw anywhere in here. There is indeed some overlap in our points, but you should, you know, expect that.

  52. Shamus says:

    Man, the fanboys really do seem to be more thin skinned lately.

    I’ll help you guys out by giving away what I’ll say about this series later:

    I am going to beat the hell out of this ugly chore of a game. If you’re going to follow me through the whole series telling me what an idiot I am for not liking your darling then just go back and play the game some more instead of reading my site.

    Telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about when the review is a bunch of subjective opinions is the quickest way to make me dismiss you as a jabbering fanboy.

    And no, I’m not running out and reading the BOOK.

  53. Gahaz says:

    Tee hee, You seem to have touched on a sore one here Big S (can i call you Big S?). I think a lot of folks like to jump to this games defense because there has been a lack of “Big” name RPGs for the PC that aren’t ports.

    Seeing that most people’s points stem from very few points and mostly consist of “You gotta play more!” dribble don’t let em phase ya. I also thought this clicker of a game was lacking oomph. Most of my gripes came from game mechanics more than story or presentation.

    One last thing. HAHA for the people wanting you to read the book. “I really don’t like this game or story that much. Man, I want to read hundreds of pages of information on it!”

  54. Scalawag says:

    Leslee Beldotti:
    “I’m surprised (or maybe not) that no one has mentioned how incredibly SEXIST The Witcher is!”

    That’s cause it was just sexist back in medieval times. Geralt’s keeping it real. Killing the monsters that plagued medieval times. Narrowly avoiding being hanged or burnt at the stake. Collecting the sexual conquest trading cards. I was just reading about how Edward II was buried with his complete set.

  55. Zukhramm says:

    For soem reason, I allways seem to read “Meet Geralt” as “Metal Gear”, happens ever time I see the title.

  56. Danath says:

    I dont jump to this games defense, theres a thousand things wrong with it, I just find his manwhore rant excessive and not representative of the character one bit, as the only way for your character to BE a manwhore is to actively play as one.

    And I never claimed historical accuracy, but the time period IS medieval, and thus the tone is somewhat justified, I dont agree with it, but then again I never slept with every woman either.

    I dont expect the review to be good, im pointing out how misinformed the character bashing is, if the game gets a beat down, so be it, I loved Yahtzee’s review of it for instance. :P

    If you hate the character so be it… but I feel you mentioned the wrong reasons for it.

  57. qrter says:

    I think a lot of folks like to jump to this games defense because there has been a lack of “Big” name RPGs for the PC that aren’t ports.

    Nah, it’s just that a lot of people genuinely like the game and Shamus didn’t and he has started blogging about it and then there’s a comments section.. :)

    The game sent me towards the books, well the one book in English at the moment (there’s a second translation coming in september – the first novel, “Blood of Elves”) and I enjoyed it very much.

    Just to be clear, I agree with a previous poster that a game based on another medium should be able to stand on its own two legs. It reminds me of Halo fanboys pointing towards the Halo novels when someone says the games have the depth of an ashtray. That’s just saying Halo is a better book than a game.

    I think if you dislike Geralt like Shamus does, you’ll have an impossible time playing the game (as Shamus has!), eventhough ‘gameplay-technically’ you do get a lot of choice to build him up as you like as a player.

    Good luck with your upcoming Witcher-posts, Shamus.. ;)

  58. Gahaz says:

    “It reminds me of Halo fanboys pointing towards the Halo novels when someone says the games have the depth of an ashtray. That’s just saying Halo is a better book than a game.”

    Just would like to say, it is. ;)

  59. Veloxyll says:

    The amnesia made no sense to me either. It was just like “Hi, you have amnesia”. It never mattered in the game, unlike say…KOTOR or Planescape: Torment. Considering it’s introduced at teh start of the game it could at least MEAN something. Aside from that your character is level 1 of course.

    Re: feeling line a lecherous man-whore instead of merely playing one.
    On the up side, It’s very immersive, you dont just feel like you’re PLAYING the character, you feel like you ARE the character (personally I found the ridiculous frequency of which women are willing to cast aside their clothes hillarious).

  60. Sharpie says:

    At the risk of sounding like a “fanboy” (I am not, I never even finished the damn game. This is more “devils advocate”), a lot of the criticism in this first part seems to be focused on:

    1) The ugly-ass-ness of Geralt.
    2) The promescuity of Geralt.
    3) The amnesia cliche.

    Part 1 is pretty much irrelevant, though fun to point out, because its not often you see such a catchers-mitt for a character. Still, better then obligatory 20s-30s, brown-hair, caucasian male with a fondness for firearms.

    Part 2 is a legitimate point, though it is not really that key to the story (only for a few girls). Though, to the games credit, they blend it in to the story enough that it doesn’t feel like sex for sex sake. But when you can randomly give a flower to a peasant and she drops her drawers, its probably time to pull it back.

    Part 3 is boring, sure, but again, it fits the story.

    Naturally there will be more, better points against the game as the series continues. Probably things I never realized annoyed me so much. But the game did one thing right: it told a decent story that didn’t seem as disjointed as Baldurs Gate and the like. Probably why I forgave 2 and 3 so readily.

  61. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @Juha

    How can a game thats not great from the very begining but gets better later be better than a game thats peaking from its very start till the end?

    @Juha & Danath

    The purpose of the begining of the game is to pull you in.If the game begins badly,people are hardly going to continue playing no matter what the ending is like.If fahrenheit was reversed,with a dumb begining but an awesome ending,Id break the CD in million little pieces after just 5 minutes,and never bother with the rest.So what if shamus wrote a review of just the start of the game?It is very important for that start to be good in order for you to play the rest.

    @Danath

    Funny how you like Yahtzees review,which is very similar to Shamus’ one,and Yathzee did admit he never played it past the first chapter,yet you are attacking shamus for doing the same.Maybe if shamus was to scream “Its a mumorpuger!” int o a microphone….:)

    Oh,and there arent right and wrong reasons for liking/hating something.Tastes are subjective things,so whether you like something or not,the reason for doing it is right for you,no matter what other people feel about it.

  62. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Sharpie:

    “Part 1 is pretty much irrelevant, though fun to point out, because its not often you see such a catchers-mitt for a character. Still, better then obligatory 20s-30s, brown-hair, caucasian male with a fondness for firearms.”

    Actually,it is very important.At least for me.Its not important for a game like doom or serious sam,but for a game that needs to make you identify with a character,it is very important.

    If Im playing a charismatic leader,it sure would break the immersion for me if that guy looked like a some filthy bum.If Im playing an ugly orc,having a lingerie model with huge chest painted green with added tusks would again break the immersion for me.This is why in most RPGs I tend to play males when having low charisma and females when having high charisma.(I dont know what is it with artists,but usually female models are by far better than male models)

  63. Mistwraithe says:

    It is incredibly amusing when people/censors say that games with sexual content should be banned or rated R18 or AO, while games with extreme violence are allowed and given lower ratings.

    Any uninformed observer (eg an alien?) would quickly come to the conclusion that slicing parts off people bodies, shooting them with a variety of high calibre weapons and using cars to crush and maim people are all normal and common place parts of life in the western world. It would be safe to assume that most people participated in these actions in real life on a regular basis.

    Alien observers would likewise assume that nudity and sexual acts were regarded as abhorrent to the vast majority of people and most likely illegal, certainly something that very few people would have the ill fortune of experiencing in real life.

    Now try to tell me that the current game and movie censorship rules aren’t screwed up beyond redemption.

    P.S. Go Shamus! Um, I think?! So long as you aren’t in the middle of a metamorphis into Yatzee V2… one Yatzee is enough for this world IMO ;-)

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  1. [...] Yathzee and Shamus Young hated this game. What did you think about it? Does it have any redeeming qualities? Should I keep [...]

  2. [...] feel more or less like Shamus did about Geralt – Tidus is such a turnoff to me in every way that I considered giving up the game because of [...]

  3. By Ranting, Harshly : The Cultural Gutter on January 23, 2013 at 8:23 am

    [...] the randy hero of the Polish RPG The Witcher, takes a beating courteous of Twenty Sided: “I picture him getting up each morning and looking at his pasty withered mug in the mirror [...]

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